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Lockdown: inside story

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Nicola Swanborough

Lockdown: inside story

In our new series, Lockdown: Inside story, NHS keyworker Emma Griffith looks at how her work has changed and discusses the challenges of adapting to online medical appointments.

'Covid-19 has been something completely different altogether'

At the beginning of these challenging and unusual times, I began working as a team assistant in the NHS. As the Covid-19 crisis unravelled, open planned wards in my hospital became isolated and administrators at all levels across the Trust were faced with needing to find alternative places of work when their offices became out of bounds, mine included.

Having  previously worked in the NHS for eight years, has always felt valuable to me. I’ve drawn a lot from the experiences I had as a volunteer and the people I’ve met along the way. During that time I went on to  progress into a paid employee and left two years ago so I could go travelling.

I enjoyed being faced with new work responsibilities daily and quickly came to learn that needing to be flexible and adaptable has always been helpful in being able to cope with any pressures or stress within the NHS. Despite that, Covid-19 has been something completely different altogether. 

Making adjustments

In these more recent times, it’s become like some sort of normal  to not always have a designated work station and it’s sometimes come down to a bit of a scavenger hunt finding a vacant computer in the department so I can get logged on.

As the weeks have passed and everything has become focused on Covid-19,  we have now decided to temporarily shorten my hours during the Covid-19 pandemic as the work I was doing could be allocated to a shorter timeframe and I didn’t need to be in the hospital unnecessarily when I had nothing to do.

I have now been working my adapted hours for a month and for the time being I feel like it’s definitely suiting me better. Times continue to be challenging at work and as offices remain out of bounds, I’ve often sat at computers alone rather than having previously shared office space with other teams.

Missing my friends

As Covid-19 has become even more of a focus in our daily life, it’s made me realise I definitely feel more positively about having a purpose to my day.  Recently I’ve been finding weekends at home harder without the same structure. I also struggle with the concept of not knowing when I will next see a lot of my friends who are needing to self isolate for months due to their own health conditions.   

Thanks to the use of social platforms like zoom and FaceTime, we’re keeping connected in the best ways we can, under the circumstances.

Emma Griffith with her family

Online medical appointments

Although I feeling mostly able to cope with the uncertainty that comes with my work, one of the things that I’m personally finding a lot harder to get my head around is adapting my medical appointments into phone and FaceTime consultations.

I feel incredibly thankful there’s ways of working around these appointments so they can still happen but changing from having done ongoing face to face appointments to verbal conversations is just so different. The first and main appointment that keeps me focused and feeling on track is my routine consultation with my GP. I’ve been fortunate to see the same GP since my early teens and she’s been such a significant figure in being there to not only support my medical health but also to guide me in being able to nourish my overall mental wellbeing and confidence.

We meet approximately every three weeks and it gives me an opportunity to discuss any concerns with my medications amongst other things. She always goes the extra mile and I feel so lucky to have made the relationship I have with her.

Since the UK has been in lockdown we have spoken on the phone about how this has bought change to us both and she has reassured me that I can continue my routine appointments via the phone every couple of weeks as we did before knowing which she knows helps to bring some normality back.

Counselling makes me think differently

The other person I’ve built a newer relationship with is my counsellor. I started seeing her at the end of September last year during a time when I felt my mental health was declining. We began meeting for regular face to face appointments. Counselling quickly became important to me because it was encouraging me to think and reflect on my thoughts and emotions more than I did already but it also challenged me to step outside my comfort zone, especially to deal with my mind when I struggled with feeling incredibly anxious and overwhlemed. I struggled for a long time with being able to connect with counselling but over time it’s made me think about things differently.

As Covid-19 has taken hold, it’s been harder needing to change our sessions from meeting regularly face to face and accepting a call on FaceTime in the same way. Throughout the sessions, we’ve spoken about things that have made me anxious and one of the main ones is generally just being able to control my nerves and getting more comfortable with using facetime as a means of communication. Knowing facetime is temporary is sometimes hard to remember and hearing her talk about meeting face to face gives me focus and motivation in wanting to keep going.  

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